Evolution of Kiteboarding

They can also cover a wider wind range than a comparable C-shaped kite. The ability to adjust the angle of attack also makes them easier to re-launch when lying front first on the water. Bow kites are popular with riders from beginner to advanced levels. Most LEI kite manufacturers developed a variation of the bow kite by 2006.Early bow kites had some disadvantages compared to classic LEI kites:

  • They can become inverted and then not fly properly
  • They can be twitchy and not as stable
  • Heavier bar pressure makes them more tiring to fly
  • Lack of “sled boosting” effect when jumping[22]

In 2006 second generation flat LEI kites were developed which combine near total depower and easy, safe relaunch with higher performance, no performance penalties and reduced bar pressure. Called Hybrid or SLE kites (Supported Leading Edge), these kites are suitable for both beginners and experts.

In 2008 Naish introduced another kite design, with their “Sigma Series” of kites. These kites are an SLE design and feature a unique “bird in flight” shape with the center of the kite swept back to put much of the sail area behind the tow point, which Naish claims has multiple benefits.

For 2009 the performance revolution shows no sign of slowing. Bridled designs feel more like C kites, and five-line hybrids have better depower capability than ever before.[23] There are more than thirty companies manufacturing Leading edge inflatable kites. The ten most popular kitefactories are CrazyFly, Best, Cabrinha, Core, F.One, Flysurfer, JN, Liquid Force, Naish, North, Ozone and Slingshot. The delta-kites are growing in popularity since 2008 with around 12 companies offering delta-kites since 2008/2009.

Foil kites

Foil kites are also mostly fabric (ripstop nylon) with air pockets (air cells) to provide it with lift and a fixed bridle to maintain the kite’s arc-shape, similar to a paraglider. A depowerable foil kite can cover about the same wind range as two traditional C-shape LEI kite sizes, so the rider can use a smaller kite, giving a wider depower range, although the new LEI “bow” kites have a comparable wide range. Foil kites have the advantage of not needing to have bladders manually inflated, a process which, with an LEI, can take up to ten minutes. Foil kites are designed with either an open or closed cell configuration.

Open Cell

Open cell foils rely on a constant airflow against the inlet valves to stay inflated, but are generally impossible to relaunch if they hit the water, since they have no means of avoiding deflation, and quickly become soaked.

Closed Cell

Closed cell foils are almost identical to open cell foils except they are equipped with inlet valves to hold air in the chambers, thus keeping the kite inflated (or, at least, making the deflation extremely slow) even once in the water. Water relaunches with closed cell foil kites are simpler; a steady tug on the power lines typically allows them to take off again. An example for a closed cell kite is the Arc Kite.

Kite sizes

Kites come in sizes ranging from 0.7 square meters to 21 square meters, or even larger. In general, the larger the surface area, the more power the kite has. Kite power is also directly linked to speed, and smaller kites can be flown faster in stronger winds. The kite size—wind speed curve tapers off, so going to a larger kite to reach lower wind ranges becomes futile at a wind speed of around eight knots. Kites come in a variety of designs. Some kites are more rectangular in shape; others have more tapered ends; each design determines the kite’s flying characteristics. ‘Aspect ratio’ is the ratio of span to length. High aspect ratios (ribbon-like kites) develop more power in lower wind speeds.

Seasoned kiteboarders will likely have three or more kite sizes which are needed to accommodate various wind levels, although bow kites may change this, as they present an enormous wind range; some advanced kiters use only one bow kite. Smaller kites are used by light riders, or in strong wind conditions; larger kites are used by heavier riders or in light wind conditions. Larger and smaller kiteboards have the same effect: with more available power a given rider can ride a smaller board. In general, however, most kiteboarders only need one board and one to three kites (7-12 sq m in size).

Other equipment

  • Flying lines are made of a very strong material, frequently Ultra high molecular weight polyethylene, in order to handle the dynamic load in unpredictable wind while maintaining a small cross-sectional profile to minimize drag. They come in lengths generally between seven and thirty-three meters. Experimentation with line lengths is common in kiteboarding. The lines attach the rider’s control bar to the kite using attachment cords on the kite edges or its bridle. Most power kites use a 3, 4 or 5-line configuration. The 5th line is used to aid in water re-launching or adjusting the kite’s angle of attack.
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